Shirley’s Spear’s For­far bri­dies

Sunday Herald Life - - CONTENTS - By Shirley Spear

SUM­MER pic­nics are of­ten cher­ished mem­o­ries: spe­cial days when the weather was for­ever hot and sunny, the whole family got to­gether and the fresh air gave us rav­en­ous ap­petites. We couldn’t wait to get started on the sand­wiches, con­tent with di­luted or­ange squash in a screw­top bot­tle, while the adults had a Ther­mos flask of tea. There would be treats like pack­ets of salty crisps, foil-wrapped choco­late bis­cuits, sticky and melt­ing in the sun, or maybe an ap­ple tart.

Once upon a time, the av­er­age work­ing per­son had few hol­i­days and a spe­cial ex­cur­sion with family or work col­leagues might have in­cluded a boat trip “doon the water”, a bus or a train ride to the coast. In the High­lands, posh shoot­ing par­ties would take off to the heather-clad hills with a whole en­tourage of ser­vants car­ry­ing wicker bas­kets laden with pies, pâtés, fruit cake and ginger­bread. Homemade fruit cor­dials in stop­pered bot­tles pro­vided liq­uid re­fresh­ment, while most men would carry hip flasks con­tain­ing a tip­ple of some­thing stronger.

Scot­land’s fa­mous For­far bri­die would make a great sum­mer pic­nic dish: easy to wrap, pack and serve along with a bowl of beet­root and potato salad flavoured with horse­rad­ish, to match the great taste of Scotch beef in the open air.

Some say that the For­far bri­die was in­vented by a lady called Mag­gie Bri­die. They be­came pop­u­lar when she sold them at the town’s weekly But­ter­mar­ket held in the An­gus town. Mag­gie hailed from the neigh­bour­ing vil­lage of Glamis. How­ever, some ar­gue that Mag­gie may never have ex­isted.

Made from but­ter-rich pas­try and filled with Aberdeen An­gus beef, the horse­shoe-shaped pies were made for cel­e­bra­tion meals as a to­ken of good luck. Bri­dies were baked for a bride’s wed­ding feast and they re­main a tra­di­tional part of many wed­ding menus and are of­ten served at chris­ten­ings.

Keen to find out more about this fa­mous dish, I recently I drove to For­far. How­ever, hav­ing found the shop be­long­ing to the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of For­far’s family of bri­die-bak­ers, McLaren’s in the High Street, I was dis­mayed to find it was closed for the an­nual hol­i­day. I had hoped to ask their opinion on why For­far is fa­mous for this spe­cial pie, but it was not to be.

How­ever, the Mef­fan Mu­seum op­po­site the wee shop was open and the at­ten­dant on duty was ex­cep­tion­ally help­ful. I was de­lighted to find a fas­ci­nat­ing, life­size replica of a For­far ven­nel in the 1800s, with a weaver, a shoe­maker and a bri­die-baker, to name but a few of the work­shops por­trayed.

I left with di­rec­tions to Sad­dler’s, an­other fa­mous bri­die shop, fur­ther up the High Street. With the trea­sure of a warm bri­die in a pa­per bag, I has­tened back to the car, sorely tempted to eat it be­fore I got home, where I later took it apart and tried to work out how it had been baked.

I have found a few recipes, but none of them seems to be the same as all the others. The type of pas­try used ranges from short­crust to flaky and puff, but the one I bought in For­far seemed to have a hint of water crust in it too. The fill­ing had been made with minced beef and onions, well-sea­soned and very tasty – es­pe­cially cold! I have come across dif­fer­ent recipes us­ing beef sliced thinly and then chopped small, rather than minced. All the recipes had one thing in com­mon and that was the un­usual ad­di­tion of a lit­tle shred­ded suet to the fill­ing, to­gether with chopped onion. If you can­not get the real thing, try bak­ing one yourself.

FOR­FAR BRI­DIES (Makes 4) To make the pas­try:

325g plain white flour (plus a lit­tle ex­tra for rolling)

75g salted Scottish but­ter

75g shred­ded beef suet

¼ tsp ta­ble salt

3-4 tbsp cold water

1 egg, beaten

Method

1. Sieve flour and salt into a bowl. 2. Dice the but­ter, which should be just com­ing to room tem­per­a­ture but not too soft. Add the but­ter and suet to the bowl. Rub into flour un­til the mix­ture re­sem­bles fine bread­crumbs. 3. Add cold water a lit­tle at a time and mix to form a soft dough, us­ing the rounded blade of a ta­ble knife. 4. Bring the dough to­gether with your fin­ger­tips, un­til it forms a pli­able ball and leaves the sides of the bowl clean. 5. Sprin­kle a lit­tle flour on a board or work sur­face and knead the dough very gen­tly for a minute, to form a smooth ball. Place in­side a poly­thene bag or wrap in cling-film and place in the re­frig­er­a­tor to chill for at least a hour, or overnight. 6. Be­fore as­sem­bling the bri­dies, di­vide the dough into four equal pieces and shape into balls, slightly egg-shaped. Set aside.

To make the fill­ing:

450g lean rump steak, best An­gus Scotch beef if pos­si­ble 1 large onion, very finely chopped 75g shred­ded beef suet Sea salt and black pep­per 2 tsp mush­room ketchup, Worces­ter sauce, or English mus­tard

Method

1. Re­move vis­i­ble fat from the beef and slice it into long, thin sliv­ers. Chop the sliv­ers of beef into small pieces ap­prox­i­mately 1cm wide. 2. Place the beef in a bowl with the chopped onion and shred­ded suet. Sea­son lib­er­ally with salt and black pep­per. Add the flavour­ing of your choice, as listed. Mix to­gether with your fin­gers, cover and set aside un­til ready to as­sem­ble the bri­dies for bak­ing.

To bake the bri­dies:

1. Pre-heat oven to 220°C, Gas mark 7, and grease a large flat bak­ing tray. 2. Dust work sur­face and rolling pin with a lit­tle plain flour. Roll out each small ball of dough into an oval shape, ap­prox­i­mately 21cm long x 15cm at the widest. 3. Weigh the rump steak mix­ture and di­vide into four equal amounts. Place one por­tion in the cen­tre of the pas­try shape, leav­ing a good mar­gin on each side and an even greater mar­gin top and bot­tom. 4. Brush the whole rim of the pas­try with a beaten egg us­ing a pas­try brush. Fold over the pas­try and crimp around the rounded edges to form a tight seal. Lift the pas­try par­cel on to the pre­pared bak­ing tray and re­peat the process un­til you have com­pleted all four bri­dies. 5. Gen­tly ease the pre­pared bri­dies into more of a horse­shoe shape, once it is on the tray. Make a few small cuts in the top of the bri­die to al­low steam to es­cape while bak­ing. Brush the bri­die all over with the beaten egg, mak­ing sure the crimped edges are sealed well. 6. Place the bri­dies in the re­frig­er­a­tor for at least 30 min­utes to chill then put in the cen­tre of the hot oven and bake for 15 min­utes. 7. Cover the pas­try lightly with a sheet of non-stick bak­ing parch­ment or grease­proof pa­per. Turn down the heat to 180°C, Gas mark 4, to cook slowly for a fur­ther 30 min­utes. Re­move the pa­per and al­low to fin­ish brown­ing un­til well golden, for a fi­nal 5-10 min­utes. 8. Re­move from oven and leave to cool on a wire tray un­less you are serv­ing them im­me­di­ately as a hot main course. Wrap each bri­die in a grease­proof pa­per par­cel for a pic­nic meal-in-one.

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